Richmond 16 Jersey Reds 41

On a great club day, Richmond celebrated their return to the Championship with a committed, gutsy and competitive performance against Jersey Reds.  Ultimately the islanders, in their fifth year at this level, had too much firepower but a half time score of 9-10 provided clear evidence that Richmond can compete well at this level.

In front of a crowd of nearly 900, Richmond ran out to a big roar and started at a pace, which shook their experienced opponents. Matt Corker, one of three new faces in the starting line up, set the tone with a charge down from the kick off. The Reds (ironically wearing a blue change strip) then lost their line out ball and Richmond maintained the pressure until their opponents conceded a penalty in front of the posts.

Rob Kirby made no mistake and for seven minutes Richmond headed the Championship table. Sam Stuart’s excellent box kick set up the next attacking position and, when Tyler Hotson secured the line out ball, Jersey conceded another penalty and Richmond returned to the 22. Frustratingly a penalty conceded for crossing stalled the momentum and the Reds took full advantage. When Rory Lynn kicked to the wing around half way, the ball was well fielded by Jack Cuthbert who slipped a pass to Ross Adair, as he took the tackle. The ball was fed down the line with quick hands and No 6 James Freeman, the Jersey captain, was on the outside to run in an overlap.  

Richmond were dominating the line out and seemed to be stealing opposition ball at will. A well judged grubber by Lynn set up a five metre line out and lock Nick Campbell knocked on under pressure. This time a grubber out to the right corner was over-hit and the moment was lost. However at this stage Richmond looked increasingly confident with the ball and good work by Timmy Walford and Ronnie McLean-Dents breached the formidable Jersey defence before a penalty was conceded fifteen metres out.

Yet another line out steal put Richmond back on the front foot and Jack Allcock did well to catch a box kick before referee Dean Richards rather harshly judged a knock on. The first scrum was finally formed after sixteen minutes and the big Jersey pack soon made it count, winning a penalty to set up position. The midfield movement was excellent and lovely running lines created another overlap, ex Bristol winger George Watkins clear from fifteen metres. However, at the kick off, the Reds dropped Kirby’s well judged kick and the full back converted a second penalty as the Reds went offside.

Jersey now had a long period of pressure in the far corner but the home defence stoutly held out and in the final minute of the half, Kirby struck a third penalty off the post as the wind strengthened. A 9-10 half time score was a fair reflection of the first forty minutes but the pressure was bound to intensify as the Reds made their experience count.  Skipper Corker and Chris Davies again claimed the first two Jersey line outs but gradually the visitors sorted their woes and increasingly dominated possession. After five minutes, Richmond conceded one of nine second half penalties and Brendan Cope judged the wind well to set up his pack. From the line out, a neat chip by Cope set centre Lewis Robling clear to the line. Four minutes later, Jersey scored their fourth try. The Reds’ right winger seemed to waste an overlap but when the ball was recycled, the forwards used their power to slip the ball inside till prop Marc Thomas blasted over. Both tries were converted by Cuthbert to take the score to 9-24.

When Richmond dropped a pass in midfield, Jersey countered quickly and another penalty allowed Cope to set up position, hooker Nick Selway the scorer this time. Despite the crippling penalty count, Richmond heads stayed high and their opening Championship try followed after sixty minutes. A five metre line out was thrown long but reclaimed by Ross Grimstone. From the melee, the alert Sam Stuart dived over near the corner and Kirby converted with aplomb.

There were two more Jersey tries, one converted by Cope, as the relentless pressure finally told. Firstly, the impressive Robling took an inside ball to burst a tackle on an angled run back and finally the powerful flanker Gary Graham stormed over on the far left, scoring with one handed flourish. Ben Lonergan earned a yellow card for a tackle in the air but his side finished with pride fully intact.

Steve Hill, Richmond FC Director of Rugby, commented; ‘Today was about learning. Our players learned that they can compete physically and also from a skill perspective. They learned that mistakes are more quickly punished at this level. The also learned that conceding penalties brings huge pressure. The challenge is now to apply what has been learned. I thought our effort and spirit were terrific and these will certainly be tested at London Irish next weekend’

Tries: Stuart
Conversion: Kirby
Penalties: Kirby (3)         
Team: R.Kirby, W.Browne, R.McLean-Dents(R.Owen), C.Mitchell, H.Cheeseman,  R. Lynn(R.Jones-Davies), S.Stuart ( J.Gibbs), T.Walford (J.Cunnew), J.Phipps (R.Grimstone), R.Harden (A.Lyon), M.Corker, T.Hotson (B.Lonergan), T.Sargeant,, C.Davies, J. Allcock